Does The Rise of Moms Mean The End Of Dads?
For most of human history, the family unit has, with few exceptions, been organized around the father. Dads have been seen as heads of the household - the people who define and lead and speak for the family - since before Noah herded all his kids onto the ark. But in the 21st century, we’ve seen a new social, cultural, political and economic phenomenon: the rise of moms. Moms are everywhere, with their blogs and their businesses and their status as one of the most important constituencies in all corners of public life, from town hall to marketplace. This is great – for moms. But what does it mean for dads? Are fathers being left behind? Are dads being marginalized in the culture of parenthood, pushed to the sidelines except insofar as they serve as comic foils to smart, capable moms who could probably - if cultural narratives are to be believed - manage just as well without them? Should we be fighting to keep dads in the cultural conversation about parenting - as Babble is endeavoring to do, with its Top 50 Dad Blog list and its soon-to-be-launched dad section - or should we be letting cultural history take its course, and let dads rise or fall as they may?
— Catherine Connors, Moderator
QUESTION 1
The current culture of parenting seems to focus entirely on mothers – almost, some have argued, to the exclusion of dads. Do you think that this is true? Have dads been marginalized in cultural representations of parenting?
The Popcorn Whisperer
That might not actually be for sure, but let's suppose it is. Let's suppose that culturally, in cinema and game shows and everything else that comes through the pipeline from Planet Infotainvertising, the rise of moms' cultural currency means that dads  …
Eating Over The Sink
I definitely agree that dads have been marginalized in cultural representations of parenting. There is no question in my mind that the vast majority of anything kid-related is geared directly at ‘mothers’, as opposed to ‘parents’.  With the  …
Parenting Off the Map with Backpacking Dad
My philosopher's brain wants to settle everything important about the assumptions in the question before answering the question (Does "dad" mean what the question needs it to mean to be a worthwhile question? Is there a difference between a cultural  …
"Dad bloggers are the ice cube in the soup, tempering the shock of an egalitarian world for the consumption of more traditional male thinkers. Dad bloggers are examples and scions, both communicating about fatherhood (instead of competing about it) and introducing men to the idea that it’s okay to think about these things, to have public opinions about them, to talk about them, and to own them." I agree with this, but also found myself pausing - I don't know that I'm entirely comfortable with the idea that 'appeasing the patriarchy' is desirable. I mean, I recognize it as potentially effective, but I don't know that I *like* it - 'it's okay, guys! don't worry about those uppity women! men are still in control!' But, but... I do agree with your point that the HOME is where we find the front-line of the battle for equality, and that meaningfully integrating men there is single most important charge in that battle.
I don't think I'm saying what you think I'm saying, unless you have broader notions of both appeasement and patriarchy than I do. Writing about parenting, thinking about parenting, engaging in parenting, from male perspectives that are not locked into old stereotypes is not appeasing the patriarchy. This isn't about telling men that they are still in control; it's about telling men that it's a good thing to be a parent; just as good as getting an MBA and ordering interns around all day. This isn't going to happen on its own without influential examples and persuasive writing. It's not going to happen if only women do the talking. And it's not going to happen if we're only superficially egalitarian about the conversation.
I was totally reading into, for sure - my discomfort was less with what you said, precisely, as it was with an idea that I felt was kind of lurking there (not necessarily put there by you, but there to be found. Will pick this up later after my flight has landed. Anti-patriarchalist working mama is travelin'! ;)
The Turbid Spume
Oy, Babble. I swear to Christmas, you're giving me migraines with these headlines. The "End of Dads"? It's true that moms have "risen" dramatically online, because mothers historically have shouldered the majority of the parenting responsibility,  …
It doesn't necessarily mean that dads are falling - that's why it's framed as a question. Because it's the core of dads' complaint, isn't it, that they're marginalized in the culture? That the focus on MOMS MOMS MOMS leaves them out? (Hence the rhetorical question about the 'end of dads' - if they've been pushed to the side in the culture, doesn't that give us something to worry about? The question is meant to identify a problem, or perhaps the extreme end of a problem, a *possibility*, and consider responses to it, as Hanna Rosin's question in the Atlantic last year - are we seeing the end (decline) of men? - did. If there is a decline or marginalization - or even the possibility of one - the rhetorical question asks that we confront it.)
Yes, but what group are we talking about here? Dads, online dads, or men? Although we are a concentric Venn diagram, the groups are not interchangeable. I agree that the hegemony of men (the mengemony!) in our culture is in decline, not only because 1) we are seeing more female CEOs and Congresspeople, but also because 2) girls are running circles around boys in the classroom. (Point 1 is completely welcome; Point 2 scares the fertilizer out of me.) But fatherhood is evolving favorably, and the rise of dadblogging is its most salient symptom. Men are spending more time fathering, and finding other fatherers online. Which can only help more boys have more specific role models for how they live their manhoods in generations hence. It might even help address Point #2.
Eating Over The Sink
No.  I don't think dads have been excluded from the parenting equation at all.  In fact, in most popular media it's the Dad who is the fun engaged parent while mom is usually in the background folding...something.  Take a look at any film, TV show  …
"everyone knows that a REAL mom would be taking this precious time to sit in the kitchen to read Vanity Fair (or something) and hope no one talks to her for 5 minutes." OH GOD YES.
Sweetney & Spice
It's interesting to hear men complaining about being marginalized relative to a sphere that they themselves collectively assigned to women for thousands of years, one traditionally deemed by them to be lesser, beneath them, "women's work." And yes, women  …
More Stories About Some Kid
Sure, we dads had our cultural heyday in the 1980s: Mr. Mom, Kramer vs. Kramer, Full House, My Two Dads.  But we were bumbling dads, the objects of ridicule. Raising a kid was some ridiculous new thing being asked of men, and we responded by purposely  …
Allana, I am surprised and impressed that you watch more TV than I do. This might explain why there are more well-rounded moms on TV and so few in comic books.

13 Comments

  • I think, to some extent, the patriarch Dad, the strict disciplinarian, sole wage earning, big decision-making figure has gone. It may still exist in some relationships but none that I know. Men and women are now equal partners in relationships and this is taking shape in parenting too. Dads are more hands on, or at least as hands on as they want to be, and more do want to be involved in everything from the scans through to the cutting of the cord and beyond, nappy changes, soothing at night and even taking the role of full-time parent, as I have. Perhaps the old idea of Dad is gone, but a great new one is emerging.

    @SAHDandproud commented on Nov 09 11 at 10:47 am Reply
  • Yes. For certain Dads are being left out of the equation. We’re equal partners and rising up for our fair share of diaper duty and family responsibilities.

    What are we getting? Ads that show us in hazmat suits changing diapers and big box stores setting up Manland to look after us while wifey shops.

    We’re still being stereotyped as neanderthals instead of getting the respect we’ve earned as more equal parenting partners.

    http://www.yummymummyclub.ca/men-are-stereotyped-too

    Buzz Bishop commented on Nov 09 11 at 12:36 pm Reply
  • I think dads’ roles are in flux, and right now maybe they’re so undefined that it’s hard to have a pat cultural stereotype for them, which is really all Supermom is anyway. In a way they have an advantage because they are still working out who they want to be; as a mother I feel a little itchy in my Supermom suit. I do it all! I blog! I am lovably fallible! Just like you! Blah blah blah!

    Speaking from the trenches of the lower-middle class, I think there might be an economic element as well. My husband is an awesome dad but he has to work 60+ hours a week for us to just get by (and for me to work from home). He doesn’t have time to blog or be a cultural influence. He makes time to parent, but there’s not much left over to talk about what his experience is like.

    Erin commented on Nov 09 11 at 12:54 pm Reply
  • The rise of Moms? The End of Dads? Raising a human being is a collaborative process that involves an extended network of care providers and nurturers. I once saw Bruno Bettelheim speak were he dismissed out right, the idea of any definition of a family beyond the traditional male, female equation. Being a dad and seeing my friends who are Dad’s I deeply feel that overall dad’s are more involved in their emotional life of their children. Equally, as my wife is now in med school (@ 40) the concept of mom has really evolved. Let’s focus on partnership, collaboration and support. And let’s hopefully acknowledge these a precious and valuable resources however and whereever they are found!

    Sean Naughton commented on Nov 09 11 at 1:02 pm Reply
  • I think that pondering and wondering about the role of dads is very much a luxury of the middle to upper classes. And even within those socioeconomic classes there is still a wide range of performances of the role of dad.

    Speaking from personal experience, my husband and I have had to be as interchangeable as parents as we could be as we had our daughter in a city with no family support or close friends at the time. We were “it”. The result is fairly equal roles. I am still the “point person” when it comes to figuring out camp, extracurricular activities, playdates, etc. but then someone needs to be. It’s quite different from what I grew up with – I grew up in a working class home where my dad was home at 5 expecting supper on the table. Food magically appeared, social life was magically arranged, and clothes were always clean.

    Growing up working class/blue collar and then changing socioeconomic classes through education and career has resulted in significant changes.

    Looking around from the outside at friends’ and acquaintances’ relationships, I see a wide range of involved dads depending upon interest and upon practicality (hard to be 100% involved if your paid work requires a lot of hours or a lot of out of town travel). I’d say most are quite different dads than they grew up with but then again, we have the luxury of playing with those roles with higher incomes and more free time.

    Finally, I believe that the roles ebb and flow over time in each relationship. It’s an ongoing negotiation. They also are specific to each relationship – I couldn’t raise a child without a fully involved dad but some of my friends and neighbours are fine with less.

    Sandra commented on Nov 09 11 at 1:42 pm Reply
  • I get where everyone is coming from and it’s a fun discussion! Our families are evolving beyond Mom and Dad. We have deadbeat dads and runaway moms. We have 2 moms or just one mom or just one dad, we have families and generations co-mingling under one roof. We are evolving beyond Dad= the guy with the sperm and Mom = the one with the womb. To me that is the exciting development — the rise of Family, the return of the Village. Or am I just a woozy parent of a 1-year-old taking the name of this website to heart?

    Gena commented on Nov 10 11 at 8:39 am Reply
  • Dads were never the center of child-rearing as far back as I can see… Mom did the bulk of the work or maybe a nanny if the family was wealthy or the extended family (of women) in specific cultures. Sure Ward Cleaver might have gotten the final (symbolic?) word on (some aspects of) discipline and fathers made the money (though women sometimes controlled the family finances) but they sure as hell would not describe their primary job as “parenting.” (Think about Kramer Vs Kramer– that was a relatively RECENT movie and the dad didn’t even know how to make breakfast!) “Parenting” is a new verb, actually. It used to just be called being a mom. If anything we’ve come to include dads more. I just think the dialog between mothers that has been going on forever has now moved from over the back yard fence–or over the phone–to over the internet. Maybe we notice that dads are excluded now because we’re moving towards more co-parenting? By the “end of dads” do you mean the end of a certain kind of patriarchy? I feel like any end of patriarchy might actual signal the birth of “dads.”

    ceridwen commented on Nov 10 11 at 10:43 pm Reply
  • I don’t see this as a weighted balance, with the “rise” of moms tipping the scale. Moms have come into their own—in the work world, in business—and now the scale is more balanced. And, yeah, we’re kicking butt in the blog world. That said, moms still shoulder the majority of household work. There’s much progress to be made in that arena, and many miles of laundry to do before we sleep, as Robert Frost once said, or something like that.

    Ellen S. commented on Nov 11 11 at 8:44 am Reply
  • I don’t agree with the premise. I think that dads are now more a part of raising kids than they were when we were little. I know my husband does a lot more of the day to day parenting and household work than my father ever did.

    Maybe within the sphere of parent blogging they are less prevalent, but even sitcoms show fathers taking more active roles these days. When I take my kids to school there are always dads around helping out and involved in after school activities.

    So my answer is no. If they are marginalized in parenting magazines or website then shame on us because dads (at least the ones in my world) are pretty awesome and present.

    Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah commented on Nov 11 11 at 4:57 pm Reply
  • I believe the assertion of “fighting to keep dads in the cultural conversation about parenting” is a false premise. It’s happening. The question only becomes how it will all shake out. Add to this the notion that women read “dad blogs” much more than men read “mom blogs”, and the role of men in online parenting discussions comes into a sharp focus.

    Failing some military draft or massive xy chromosomal virus, men are taking part, with expanding numbers, in the experience of child raising.

    The inclusion of Dads in the online parenting conversation is also an organic extension of feminism in some ways. As roles shift and responsibilities are reassessed, it’s only natural that the other half of the equation is included in a more substantive way. The two fights are separate however; equality in the workplace for women and inclusion of men in parenting are not synonymous. I find many SAHDs to be big proponents for their wive’s careers.

    That being said, I will go back to watching cat videos and groin kicks on YouTube as I eat my chips and salsa. Thanks for your time.

    Charlie @HowToBeADad commented on Nov 16 11 at 1:10 pm Reply
  • This topic is a tough one at best. Born in India, I am all too familiar with the man being head of household and the primary caretaker. It is no secret that India is a male dominated country in respect to family units. On the same token, being raised predominantly in the US, I have seen the other side. Moving to Massachusetts at the age of 8, my mother did not get her license until I was 13. Regardless though, she did the majority of the caretaking. My father traveled a lot, worked endless hours and provided for us financially. I made a concerted effort growing up to make sure that I would be able to provide for my family, even if my husband did not. Women are definitely more prevalent in the workplace now than ever before. Unfortunately, some still frown upon women who want to make a difference and have success in the business world. I commend those who do. I am one of them myself. Fortunately, I have a husband who not only works full time, and supports my career but, helps take care of our children, dogs and home. Our responsibilities are 50/50 and we put in whatever each of us needs to do make sure that our family is healthy and happy, and that our household is running efficiently. The negative is that the typical assumption from other people is that me, the mother takes care of everything. If I speak of a great meal we had, others never assume my husband may have made it. To be honest, I think both parties get the short stick. Nobody assumes that a woman may be the bread winner nor do they think a man keeps a clean home or cooks… Now if we could only put our assumptions aside and accept that both men and women are capable of great things regardless of the stigmas, I wonder what our young children would really strive to do as they grow up.

    Shivani Cotter commented on Feb 15 12 at 3:57 pm Reply

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